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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | November 11, 2021

2021 NCAA volleyball bracket predictions, two weeks from selections

NCAA women's volleyball bracket predictions ahead of the selection show

We are about TWO weeks away from the unveiling of the 2021 DI women's volleyball tournament field on Nov. 28. We made a prediction as to what the bracket might look like 50 days before selections, and now, I made a newer version just two weeks from the real deal. 

I explained this in my previous bracket prediction, but want to again make clear how this was created. I did not pick these teams based on my own personal opinion, instead, I did my best to follow the committee's selection criteria and bracketing principles. I tried to practically "be" the committee and stick to what I think they would choose. 

So, I picked my automatic qualifiers, at-large picks and top 16 seeds based on a combination of where things are now, the most recent RPI, the committee's criteria and a little guess as to how these teams will finish.

TOP MATCHUPS THIS WEEK: Huge tests for No. 1 Louisville and No. 4 Wisconsin, previewed

While building the bracket, I followed the NCAA bracket principles to the best of my ability, meaning if a school could drive to a host site within 400 miles, that is where they needed to go (before flights can be arranged), and I avoided conference matchups in the first round. All of that while trying to stick to the curve of top seeds playing lower ranked teams, etc. 

So yes, doing that all by hand was no easy task, but without further ado — here is my bracket projection two weeks before the real, final bracket is revealed: 

2021 NCAA volleyball bracket predictions, two weeks from selections

(Stars denote automatic qualifiers)

No. 1 *Louisville vs. *Morehead State   No. 3 *Wisconsin vs. *Colgate
*Dayton vs. *UCF   Iowa State vs. Washington State
     
Stanford vs. Miami   Ole Miss vs. San Diego
No. 16 *Creighton vs. Arkansas   No. 14 Washington vs. *Hawai'i
     
No. 9 Minnesota vs. *Milwaukee    No. 11 *BYU vs. *UNLV
*FGCU vs. Marquette   South Carolina vs. Utah
     
Illinois vs. West Virginia   Pepperdine vs. Florida State
No. 8 *Kentucky vs. *UNCG   No. 6 *UCLA vs. *Grand Canyon
     
No. 5 Baylor vs. *Florida A&M   No. 7 Georgia Tech vs. *South Alabama
Northern Colorado vs. Rice   Texas Tech vs. Florida
     
*Western Kentucky vs. *Ball State   Tennessee vs. *High Point
No. 12 Purdue vs. *Loyola Chicago   No. 10 Ohio State vs. *UMBC
     
No. 13 Nebraska vs. Omaha   No. 15 Penn State vs. *Fairfield
Kansas State vs. Oregon   *Sacred Heart vs. *Brown
     
Michigan vs. *Towson   North Carolina vs. Mississippi State
No. 4 Pittsburgh vs. *Delaware State   No. 2 *Texas vs. *TAMUCC

Here are my top four seeds: 

1. Louisville
2. Texas
3. Wisconsin
4. Pittsburgh

I stuck with the same top four seeds and ordering that the committee had in their top 10 reveal. Louisville takes a clear and easy No. 1 seed for the tournament as the last undefeated team in the nation. On top of the Cardinals, they have wins over Pittsburgh, Purdue, Kentucky, Nebraska and Georgia Tech. Resumes don't get much more impressive than that. On top of what they have accomplished this is a balanced team top to bottom. They are one of the best blocking teams in the nation and then have a lethal offense and great defense with Elena Scott in the backcourt. Anna Stevenson and Amaya Tillman are incredible options out of the middle, Anna DeBeer leads the team in kills, and then they have some great serving as well with three players above 20 service aces on the season, led by Aiko Jones with 29. 

Texas moves to No. 2 from my last prediction after its first loss on the season to Baylor. The Longhorns won the first matchup against the Bears in a straight sweep before losing in four the following night. They remain at two though, because this is still a national championship caliber team. Like the Cardinals, serving sets them apart from a lot of the other teams. Logan Eggleston and Melanie Parra lead the charge in that category with wicked serves. Eggleston and Skylar Fields at the pins are incredibly good, and then they get strong production out of the middle with Brionne Butler and Asjia O'Neal. 

Wisconsin earns the No. 3 seed in this projection, although the Badgers are currently No. 4 behind Pittsburgh in the AVCA poll. I have them at three because I had the committee's top 10 to go off of. Plus, I took into account the fact that Pittsburgh still has to play Georgia Tech and Louisville again, and could possibly add another loss to the Cards. Wisconsin still has three or so really tough tests remaining with Purdue, Nebraska and Minnesota. But I predict they will win the Big Ten. The Badgers are tough to beat when they have it all working together. Still, they are not bullet proof. In two instances this year, they were off their game and lost two matches because of it. In the loss to Purdue, their offense was out of whack, they had zero service aces and hit for a low percentage. Plus, Dana Rettke wasn't leading the stat boards, which isn't the end all be all ... but they typically are doing well when Rettke is involved offensively. In the loss to Maryland, they notched 17 service aces, if that says anything at all. So, if they can put it all together, then yes, I predict this team will win the Big Ten and receive a No. 3 or 4 seed in the tournament. 

Pitt finishes off the top four at No. 4. Again, this was following the committee's top 10 and taking into account the fact that they have to face Georgia Tech and Louisville again — the two teams they already lost to this season. But even with the losses, they will still remain in the top four, I think. The next team's have four or more losses, and Pitt has the No. 1 RPI in the nation. RPI will be super important to the committee. This team is stacked with Kayla Lund, Chinaza Ndee and Leketor Member-Meneh, they almost made it to the national semifinals last season, so I can't even begin to imagine what they might accomplish as a top four seed. 

The top 16 seeds:

The stars denote automatic qualifiers. 

1. Louisville*
2. Texas*
3. Wisconsin*
4. Pittsburgh
5. Baylor
6. UCLA*
7. Georgia Tech
8. Kentucky*
9. Minnesota
10. Ohio State
11. BYU*
12. Purdue
13. Nebraska
14. Washington
15. Penn State
16. Creighton*

With Kentucky losing to South Carolina, I predict that Baylor will move up and get a favorable seeding at No. 5. The Bears have the No. 4 RPI in the nation right now with a win over No. 2 Texas, and I think they will be rewarded for that RPI. 

Then you’ve got UCLA and Georgia Tech at No. 6 and 7. They also were ranked in the committee’s top 10. They both have high RPIs with UCLA at No. 8 and Georgia Tech at No. 6 and a lot of ranked wins. Those seem to be what the committee values most. Sherene Brantley, the committee chair, noted a few weeks ago that UCLA has a top-10 win against Georgia Tech, four top-25 wins and seven top-50 wins. They do have that loss to Arizona State. But they are out-hitting, out-digging and out-blocking their opponents. 

For Georgia Tech, she said they have top-10 win over Pitt, and two top-25 wins as well as six top-50 wins. They do have Louisville and Pitt still on the schedule this season, but I still accounted for a few more possible losses in this ranking. Even if they notched one or two more losses, that is still just four or five losses on the season, which teams above and below them in the top 10 already have. 

Kentucky dropped to eight after its unexpected loss to South Carolina. They still have the No. 7 RPI though, and the committee previously saw them in a pretty favorable light in their top 10 reveal, so I still think they will be in the top 10 even with that loss. Then, I predict Minnesota will be in the top 10 with those crazy amount of ranked and top 10 wins … despite six or maybe more losses. The Gophers have wins over Stanford, Oregon, Ohio State twice and Nebraska, plus the No. 11 RPI. They have just one bad loss to Michigan, but the rest are to highly regarded teams this season. 

Then I’ve got Ohio State, BYU and Purdue. Ohio State received a high No. 7 ranking in the committee's top 10 but notched a few losses as of late. I think the committee will keep them in the top 10, so I projected them to be the No. 10 seed. BYU was not in the committee’s top 10 likely because of its No. 26 RPI, but the Cougars have a great record and wins over Utah and San Diego. They still have San Diego on their schedule so they could have another win over them by the end of the season so I projected they will be given the No. 11 seed. 

Then to close out the 16 seeds I’ve got Nebraska, Washington, Penn State and Creighton, sneaking in at No. 16. Creighton with that high RPI and a win over Kentucky could sneak its way in. 

Automatic qualifiers:

Projecting the winners of every conference, here are 32 AQs in the NCAA tournament field. The remaining spots are given at-large bids. 

Conference AQ CURRENT RPI
America East UMBC 198
American UCF 20
ACC Louisville 2
ASUN FGCU 44
Atlantic 10 Dayton 49
Big East Creighton 13
Big Sky Northern Colorado 63
Big South High Point 52
Big Ten Wisconsin 5
Big 12 Texas 3
Big West Hawaii 70
CAA Towson 82
C-USA Western Kentucky 25
Horizon League Milwaukee 66
Ivy League Brown 77
MAC Ball State 35
MAAC Fairfield 114
MEAC Delaware State 204
Missouri Valley Loyola Chicago 56
Mountain West UNLV 74
NEC Sacred Heart 162
Ohio Valley Morehead State 96
Pac-12 UCLA 8
Patriot League Colgate 112
SEC Kentucky 7
SoCon UNCG 139
Southland TAMUCC 118
Summit League Omaha 90
SWAC Florida A&M 199
Sun Belt South Alabama 65
WAC Grand Canyon 79
WCC BYU 26

Conferences with multiple teams in the projected bracket

CONFERENCE TOTAL TEAMS TEAMS (AUTOMATIC QUALIFIER IN BOLD)
Big Ten 8 Wisconsin, Minnesota, Ohio State, Purdue, Nebraska, Penn State, Illinois, Michigan
ACC 6 Louisville, Pittsburgh, Georgia Tech, Miami (FL), Florida State, North Carolina
Big 12 6 Texas, Baylor, Texas Tech, West Virginia, Iowa State, Kansas State
Pac-12 6 UCLA, Washington, Utah, Oregon, Stanford, Washington State, 
SEC 6 Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Mississippi State
WCC 3 BYU, Pepperdine, San Diego

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